A few years ago, my daughter gave me a subscription to the English magazine Country Living as an ongoing birthday present.
Barbara Lea Taylor goes on a magic carpet roses ride
Idrool over every luscious edition. While it’s grim winter here, I can lose myself in the delights of spring and summer in England, and dream on about how my garden might (or might not) look in a few months’ time.
In a recent edition, an advertisement for drift groundcover roses caught my eye. “These little cuties offer incredible versatility within the garden,” it said. “Growing to a height of 45cm they can be used to break up harsh lines and empty spaces amongst borders while providing perfect weed suppressing groundcover.” The three roses pictured – ‘Popcorn’, ‘Peach’ and ‘Pink’ – were pretty enough, but I couldn’t help feeling a little sad that this Queen of Flowers had become little more than a pretty weed suppressant and groundcover.
Probably the English roses are similar to our well-known Flower Carpet roses, although these come in a much larger variety of colours and some can grow quite tall if encouraged. The white Flower Carpet is particularly vigorous and I remember mistaking a row of impressive standard Flower Carpets for the inimitable ‘Iceberg’ in a friend’s garden some years ago.
Flower Carpet roses were bred by German hybridiser Noack Rosen.
He emphasised their disease resistance. They were introduced to New Zealand in 1992 by Anthony Tesselaar Plants.
My favourite was the pale pink and white ‘Apple Blossom’, and I planted a bush on each side to soften the concrete steps to an entrance.
Recently the next generation of Carpet roses has appeared with a wider colour range and big, high-health bushes ideal for landscaping. ‘White’, ‘Apple Blossom’, ‘Pink‘, ‘Pink Splash‘, ‘Gold‘, ‘Amber‘, ‘Red‘ (dark red with yellow stamens), ‘Scarlet‘ and ‘Sunset‘ are some of the varieties available. They may not be the romantic roses of the poets but they have all the desirable virtues for gardeners – big colour choice, long flowering, easy pruning, disease-free and drought tolerant. Watch out for them at garden centres, retailers and specialist rose nurseries.
When it comes to roses already in our gardens, don’t be trigger happy with the pruning shears.
If there are late and dead flowers on a bush, leave them there. Some might produce hips. Roses need their winter rest and it would be a mistake to be overly neat and prune too early. When I pruned my mother’s roses, I could see the panic in her eyes towards the end of June but I never had time to prune her roses or mine until well into July. I explained that as long as it was done before bud burst in spring, all was right with the world and the roses would be better for the rest, but I don’t think she ever believed me.